Action Verb

A verb that describes :material processes.

Action verbs can be intransitive (the old man fell), transitive (the apple hit  Newton's head), or di-transitive (my brother sent his wife flowers).

Active Voice

A sentence structure in which the participant that performs the action of the verb is in the subject position

Dr. Sheldrake smelled the test tube. (Compare with the passive voice: The test tube was smelled by Dr. Sheldrake).


A group of words with both a subject and a verb, corresponding to a sentence.

When a clause can stand alone, it's called an independent clause.

Students like learning about scientific breakthroughs.

When a clause is embedded in a larger sentence, it's called a dependent clause.

I wonder whether students like learning about scientific breakthroughs.

The students who like learning about scientific breakthroughs are here.

The claim that students like learning about scientific breakthroughs is false.

Coherence and Cohesion

Coherence & cohesion are two aspects of a text's structure. Cohesion refers to a text's internal relationships; cohesion refers to its external relationships.

Textual cohesion describes the patterns among the words, phrases, and clauses within a text. When a text is not cohesive, then the reader will be unable to identify the logical relationships among concepts. It's important to mark these relationships using cohesive devices - such as reference and substitution, word choice, and conjunctions - because the overall text should be a single unit, not a collection of unconnected ideas.

Coherence refers to the way a text relates outward to its context, which has two aspects. First, there is the context of :register; a text coheres with its register when all its sentences could naturally occur within a specific social situation. This includes consideration of the purpose of the text, the social roles of the writer and reader, and language choice. Second, a text should also cohere with its genre. Examples of writing genres include essays, emails, and research reports - each of which have predictable structures and conventions.


A phrase that is allowed or required to appear with a head, completing its meaning:

Complex Sentence

A sentence that combines an :independent clause with one or more :dependent clauses.


The grammatical category of words that link two (:phrases), including (:coordinating conjunctions) (and, or, nor, but, yet, so) and (:subordinating conjunctions) (whether, if, to).

Conjunctive Adverb

An adverb or prepositional phrase used to show the logical relationship between sentences or (:independent clauses)—for example, however, therefore, for  example.

Coordinate Conjunction

A conjunction that can join two :independent clauses as a compound sentence.

The coordinating conjunctions can be remembered by the acronym FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.

Dependent Clause

AKA subordinate clause: A clause that cannot stand on its own as a single sentence because it lacks either a noun-phrase subject or a verb with tense. This includes all...


A :dependent clause treated as a complete sentence. While they can sometimes be used by fluent writers to achieve a certain effect, sentence fragments are generally considered an error in academic and formal writing.

Independent Clause

A (:clause) with a noun-phrase subject, a finite verb, and any complements required by the verb. Together these elements represent a complete thought and can be used as a sentence in formal writing.

Linking Verb

a verb that either defines or describes something.

Defining linking verbs link the subject to a definition or statement about its identity (e.g., Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a tiny parasite that lives in the stomachs of cats).

Describing linking verbs put the subject in a particular class or category; essentially, they say X is a member of the class Y (e.g., The baker is charming; the phone app is convenient).

See Linking Verbs in Academic Writing→

Location Element

A location element is a form of :metadiscourse that serves to direct the reader's attention to certain information in a figure, e.g.,

There are two types of location statements: indicative and informative. Both types use :reporting verbs, but each type uses some verbs and cannot use others.

For more information, see the full post at Location Elements→ (forthcoming)


Words that help readers navigate a text by identifying organization, logical connections, or important features, e.g.,

To sum up; In this essay I will make the following 17 points; But I digress.

Non-restrictive Relative Clause

A dependent clause that elaborates on the meaning  of something in the main clause with additional information, clarifications, descriptions,  explanations, or comments.

The Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator, is located in Switzerland."

The rover, which was designed to explore the Martian surface and collect data on its geology and climate, completed its mission in 2018.

Non-restrictive clauses are always separated from the main clause with commas, unlike restrictive clauses, which are embedded.  

Old to New

The Old to New Contract

The tendency in English for old (i.e., recoverable) information to occur in :the topic position at the beginning of a sentence, and for new (i.e., not previously mentioned) information to occur in :the comment position at the end of the sentence.

The door opened and in walked George. (Compare with George walked in and the door opened).

He handed me a small package.

Parallel Structure

Parallel Structure

In a list joined by a (:coordinating conjunction) or correlative  conjunction, the items must have the same grammatical form (e.g., all nouns, all verbs,  all -ing clauses, all noun clauses, etc.).

Passive Voice

A sentence structure in which the thing that receives the action of the verb is in the subject position, and the thing that performs the action of the verb is either in a prepositional phrase or absent altogether.

Passive: Honey is made by bees.

Active voice: Bees make honey.


A group of words that behaves as a unit in a sentence and which typically has some coherent meaning.

in the dark
the man in the gray suit
dancing in the dark
afraid of the wolf


Writers need to ensure that the language in their text is appropriate for i) the social situation mediated by the text; ii) the relationships among the participants in the text; iii) the conventions of the genre. Together these three aspects define register.

Reporting Verbs

One of the three types of verbs (see: :action verbs, :linking verbs) that reports inner processes (speech, thoughts, feelings) of another person or source (e.g., say, believe, argue).


(aka subordinating conjunctions)

A grammatical category containing a small number of words that introduce a (:subordinate clause).

She said that it will work

I wonder whether he knows about the party

For her to stay home is unusual.

Subordinate Clause

A (:clause) embedded in a larger (:phrase), as opposed to the main clause of the sentence.

She thinks I’m crazy.

Peter repeated the gossip that Melissa was pregnant to Sherry.

Run-On Sentence

(also called a comma splice)

Two (:independent clauses) joined by a comma and no (:conjunction). This is considered an error in formal writing.

Quantum computers have the potential to revolutionize computing by solving complex problems faster than classical computers, however, they are still in the early stages of development.

Electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular due to their reduced environmental impact and lower operating costs [ ] they still face challenges related to charging infrastructure.


The grammatical category of words which are inflected for tense and which express actions (e.g., he kicked the ball), inner processes (I thought I saw a pussycat), or states of being (I am Superman).


The difference between an active sentence (bees make honey) and a passive sentence (honey is made by bees).